eric goldstein

bus breakdown

New York

Audit: DOE paid too much for parsley and other food products

An audit by Comptroller John Liu's office found that the Department of Education overpaid for food about .003 percent of the time two years ago. Liu's latest DOE audit looked at the way the Office of SchoolFood contracts and pays vendors for food that is served in schools — at about 850,000 meals annually, according to the city. It concludes that of the $113.9 million spent on school food in the 2009-2010 school year, more than $400,000 could be recouped because records showed the city had paid too much or because there was no record that the city had received any food at all. The DOE is paying an 862 percent markup for fresh parsley and more than 400 percent the real cost of several other vegetables and herbs, according to a spreadsheet that Liu's office compiled. The department is paying more than the real value for 76 kinds of food, according to the spreadsheet. An even broader issue, according to the audit, is that department doesn't always check when contractors says they require payment or have made deliveries. “The DOE paid $113 million for which it got receipts, but never looked inside the bags to see if the groceries were there,” said Matthew Sweeney, a Liu spokesman, in a statement. The audit urges the city to tighten controls over school food spending. Last time Liu's office released the results of a DOE audit, about the use of pre-kindergarten funds, department officials said they were submitting their response "under protest." But Eric Goldstein, head of the Office of SchoolFood, signaled no such resistance in a letter accompanying the DOE's response to today's audit.